Does anyone know the Labour Party’s policy on Brexit?

In June 2016, the UK experienced the one of biggest voter turnouts in it’s democratic history. 33.6 million people voted in the EU Referendum and the historic decision was taken to leave the EU. Three months later, the Labour Party held its annual conference in Liverpool.

“Our party is about campaigning and it’s about protest too” said Jeremy Corbyn at the conference, “but most of all it’s about winning power to deliver the real change our country so desperately needs”.

Our response to the Brexit vote will shape the future of Britain. The vote to leave the EU was a question of power and political control.

So, what is the party’s position on it?

Can Jeremy Corby tell us?

In response to the November’s High Court decision that Article 50 can only be triggered with a majority vote by MPs, the Labour leader told a newspaper that he would join forces with Conservative Remain supporters and other parties to block the process for leaving the European Union if the Prime Minister does not guarantee access to the single market and other conditions. So, Corbyn is acting to thwart Brexit?

Later, a source close to Mr Corbyn told Sky News that Labour’s support for triggering Article 50 – the starting gun for leaving the EU – was “unconditional”. So, Corbyn is for Brexit?

What is Corbyn’s position? Does he, himself know what it is?

Was the policy made clear at the Labour Party Conference?

Was the issue clarified at the Labour Party Conference?

Of the eight issues debated on the conference floor, Brexit was not one of them. Even the issue of grammar schools was seen as more important.

However, the following motion was passed.

“Conference recognises that many of those who voted to leave the EU were expressing dissatisfaction with EU or national policy and were voting for change, but believes that unless the final settlement proves to be acceptable then the option of retaining EU membership should be retained,” the motion says.

“The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through Parliament and potentially through a general election or a referendum.”

The motion was proposed by the TSSA, the travel workers trade union. Interestingly it was in stark contrast to the policy of the RMT and ASLEF railway unions, both of whom campaigned to leave the EU.

So, Labour Party policy is to call for a second referendum? Not quite.

The motion is not official policy. It will be taken to the party’s policy forum, which will consider it alongside other factors when deciding what the party’s official EU policy is.

Can the Shadow Secretary for the Leaving the EU tell us?

Keir Starmer has been appointed as Shadow Secretary for Leaving the EU. Starmer is pro-EU.

Keir Starmer is working with a cross-party group of MPs to force a parliamentary vote to get Ministers to reveal their plans for the UK’s future outside the EU before negotiations begin. The move appears to be aimed at preventing exit from the Single Market.

Leaving the EU means leaving the Single Market of the EU. Only  by leaving the Single Market will the British government be free to strike trade deals around the world, stop payments to the EU and control its own laws and immigration. This is Brexit. It seems that the Labour Party aims to obfuscate and to re-label leaving the EU (including its Single Market) as an optional “Hard Brexit”.

Starmer’s stated brief is to “demand Parliamentary scrutiny of the Brexit process”. But to what end?

Starmer seems to be dedicated to undermining Brexit. Is this the brief that Corbyn and McDonnell have given him?

Can Labour Party members tell us?

I have asked a number of active Labour Party members who attended the conference in Liverpool. I have received the following answers

“John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn are no supporters of the EU”

“The policy is to hold the Tories to account on Brexit”

“There can’t be a policy until the Tories have announced what Brexit means”

So, knowing people in the Labour Party provides no insider information and little clarification.

The great evasion

The Labour Party seems unable to make sense of the Brexit vote. From Yvette Cooper to Jeremy Corbyn, there is no clarity of understanding.

Labour’s dislocation leads only to fear, pessimism and apprehension.

It campaigns, in the abstract, against ‘bigotry’. Because Labour members mistakenly fear that the Brexit vote was motivated by nationalistic sentiment. Have they not noticed that British nationalism is at an all-time low and far-right parties are reduced to fringe sects.

It argues to defend ‘EU-granted worker’s rights’, although it seems unable to point to any rights that have uniquely been granted by the EU or any that are threatened by exit from it. Does it do this because it has no policies which will improve the lives of ordinary people?

Jeremy Corbyn may have attracted 100,000 people to hear his leadership campaign speeches, but he has little to say on the biggest democratic event in a lifetime.

The Labour Party is desperate to connect with ordinary people again, but it can’t find a way. It has handed the democratic mandate to the Tories plays the ambiguous role of ‘holding them to account’. Accountable to what end remains unclear.

The Labour Party may be committed to ‘campaigning and protesting’, but it still doesn’t know what to put on its placards. “Democracy Now!” would be a good start.

© Andy Shaw 15th October 2016

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